Ted Koppel: Trump Ally Alex Jones Is “Spreading The Manure That Fertilizes Conspiracy Theories All Over The Internet”
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While every other major cable news morning show acknowledged the guilty verdict of Charleston, SC, gunman Dylann Roof, who murdered nine black parishioners in a racially motivated shooting, Fox News’ Fox & Friends made no mention of it during the December 16 broadcast.
On June 17, 2015, Roof entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, and murdered nine black parishioners, having been influenced by white supremacists and white nationalists. On December 15, Roof was found guilty on all 33 charges brought against him, including “hate crimes that resulted in death,” after only two hours of deliberation by the jury.
While cable morning shows on CNN and MSNBC both reported on the verdict and discussed the implications for race relations, Fox & Friends failed to mention it, even in a brief headlines segment. Instead, the show found time to host a Fox News doctor to attack the Affordable Care Act, give a Fox News contributor who is under consideration for a position in the incoming administration an opportunity to pitch himself, and test out “As Seen on TV” products.
The omission is not the first time Fox News has played down the issues surrounding the Charleston murders. When the shooting was first reported, Fox & Friends’ Steve Doocy claimed it was “extraordinary” that it was considered a hate crime, Fox guest Rudy Giuliani claimed that Roof potentially “hat[ed] Christian churches” -- a point that was echoed by Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade on his radio show -- and one Fox guest blamed the shooting on “the left wing” and “their education system.”
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is scrubbing online content pushing the false and dangerous conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton’s campaign trafficked children through a D.C. pizzeria. A man who recently entered the pizzeria with a rifle and fired shots reportedly shared a piece of Jones’ content before the shooting; the video he shared is still on the website.
Jones is a radio host who has claimed that the government perpetrated the 9/11 attacks and the tragedies at Columbine, Oklahoma City, Sandy Hook, and the Boston Marathon. Jones has also repeatedly accused the Clintons of murder. He has been elevated from the fringes to the mainstream by President-elect Donald Trump, who appeared on his show and praised his “amazing” reputation. Trump adviser Roger Stone is also a regular Jones guest and contributor.
Jones and his Infowars website have promoted the false conspiracy theory dubbed "pizzagate," which alleges that top Clinton associates such as campaign chair John Podesta are trafficking children through the Comet Ping Pong restaurant.
The false claims took a dangerous turn when Edgar Maddison Welch fired an assault rifle inside the pizzeria because he was trying to “self-investigate” the conspiracy theory. FBI special agent Justin Holgate stated in a criminal complaint that Welch said he sent a video on the night of December 1 with the message “Watch PIZZAGATE: The Bigger Picture on YouTube” to a friend before the shooting:
“Pizzagate: The Bigger Picture” is the headline Infowars used for a December 1 article -- still online -- promoting a video from Infowars producer Jon Bowne that pushes the pizzagate conspiracy theory. Jones tweeted the headline on December 1. The headline was also used on YouTube by a non-Infowars accounts to promote the Infowars video.
Jones and Infowars appear to be scrubbing commentary about pizzagate. Jones’ YouTube channel posted a November 23 video headlined “Pizzagate Is Real: Something Is Going On, But What?” The video has since “been removed by the user,” though it’s not clear when.
The video has been re-uploaded or re-upped by other toxic conspiracy theorists (some of whom speculated about why Jones deleted it). During the video, Jon Bowne states that Clinton allies are “using a code to communicate child sex trafficking as casually as ordering a pizza.” The video then states that Comet Ping Pong “may be competing for the lucrative Washington, D.C., pedophile market right out in the open.”
While Jones has removed content related to pizzagate, his website still contains false articles promoting the conspiracy theory. For instance, Kit Daniels posted a November 5 piece headlined “Law Enforcement Begs World: Read Hillary Emails To Find Child Rape Evidence; Hillary Linked To Child Sex Ring, Emails Suggest.” The article suggested that John Podesta was potentially involved in “child molestation” and “child pornography” because his hacked email account contained “strange” references to “pizza”:
Jones has been attempting to distance himself from his clear promotions of pizzagate. Yet Jones’ own content -- scrubbed or otherwise -- proves that he can’t run away from it.
*This post has been updated for clarity.
The New York Times interviewed Edgar Welch, the alleged armed gunman who went to Washington, D.C’s Comet Ping-Pong pizzeria in a self-described attempt to investigate the false “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory repeatedly pushed by Donald Trump ally and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
Jones has been described as “more responsible than any other person for the spread of ‘Pizzagate,’” and has bragged about his private conversations with Trump and their close ideological beliefs. In the Times interview, Welch admitted to being a listener to Alex Jones and claimed that “he touches on some issues that are viable,” but even the alleged gunman admitted that sometimes Jones “goes off the deep end.”
He said he did not believe in conspiracy theories, but then added that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks needed to be re-examined. He has listened to Alex Jones, whose radio show traffics in conspiracy theories and who once said that Mrs. Clinton “has personally murdered and chopped up” children. “He’s a bit eccentric,” Mr. Welch said. “He touches on some issues that are viable but goes off the deep end on some things.”
ABC, NBC, CBS Show “How A Fake News Story Can Lead To A Real Life-Threatening Situation"
Nightly news programs on NBC, CBS, and ABC examined “how a fake news story can lead to real world consequences” in their reports on a shooting incident at Comet Ping Pong, a Washington, DC, pizzeria.
Accused shooter Edgar Welch entered the pizzeria on December 4 with an AR-15 assault rifle, fired at least one round into the floor, and told authorities he was there to “self-investigate” the conspiracy theory that dozens of prominent liberals are complicit in an international child sex trafficking ring, because emails stolen from Clinton campaign manager John Podesta referenced “pizza.”
While conservative media outlets have typically downplayed fake news stories calling them “silly” and “nonsense,” broadcast nightly news programs on NBC, CBS, and ABC reported how fake news can have dangerous consequences.
NBC correspondent Tom Costello reported on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt that “the Pizzagate conspiracy began with the Clinton WikiLeaks and an email stolen from campaign chief John Podesta about a fundraiser involving the restaurant.” Costello noted that 4chan users “suggested without any proof whatsoever that the word ‘pizza’ was code for ‘child sex trafficking’ at the restaurant,” and from there the malicious rumor spread “to Reddit and YouTube, feeding fake online news stories, then jumping to Facebook and Twitter.” Even though “both DC police and federal agents say the story is false,” Costello added that “discredited rumors about sex trafficking” targeting Democrats are “even shared by President-Elect Trump’s choice for national security adviser, General Michael T. Flynn.”:
On CBS’ Evening News with Scott Pelley, Chip Reid took apart the “fictitious online conspiracy theory” started by “right-wing sites that make up fake news” alleging Clinton and her associates were involved in a pedophile ring. Host Scott Pelley noted that the shooter gave up when he “found no evidence that underage children were being harbored in the restaurant,” as the lies on the internet baselessly alleged:
ABC senior justice correspondent Pierre Thomas highlighted the “egregious and deliberate lie” that is the Pizzagate conspiracy on ABC World News Tonight with Scott Pelley. Thomas reported that the suspect “aimed a rifle at an employee and fired a round into the floor” because he decided to “self-investigate” the “utterly false story about child abuse” at Comet Ping Pong. Thomas further reported that “employees have been besieged by death threats” since the right-wing lie gained traction online, “shows how a fake news story can lead to a real life-threatening situation”:
President-elect Donald Trump is reportedly considering right-wing talk radio host and Fox News favorite Sheriff David Clarke for Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Not only is Clarke’s record as Sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin questionable, he has repeatedly appeared on Fox News to spout racially-charged rhetoric, including comparing Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance to the Ku Klux Klan and calling Black Lives Matter a “subversive movement.”
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ABC, NBC, And CBS Morning Shows Cover Days-Old Clinton Email Story 15 Times More Than New Report On Trump’s Tax Avoidance Scheme
The network morning shows spent nearly half an hour covering the four-day-old story that the FBI found emails that may be pertinent to an investigation of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s private email server, but less than two minutes on a new report detailing possibly illegal actions Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump took in the 1990s to avoid reporting hundreds of millions of dollars of taxable income.
On October 28, FBI Director James Comey defied Justice Department rules and precedent to issue a short and vague letter informing Congress that the bureau had obtained and was seeking to review emails “that appear to be pertinent to the investigation” regarding Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state. Comey’s decision drew criticism from media figures from across the political spectrum and former federal prosecutors and Justice Department officials. Yet during the morning of November 1, ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, and CBS’ CBS This Morning spent a combined total of nearly 30 minutes on this story and the impact it might have on election polls.
Just yesterday, The New York Times explained that “thanks to a” possibly illegal tax maneuver Trump used in the early 1990s, he “potentially escaped paying tens of millions of dollars in federal personal income taxes” (emphasis added):
[N]ewly obtained documents show that in the early 1990s, as he scrambled to stave off financial ruin, Mr. Trump avoided reporting hundreds of millions of dollars in taxable income by using a tax avoidance maneuver so legally dubious his own lawyers advised him that the Internal Revenue Service would most likely declare it improper if he were audited.
Thanks to this one maneuver, which was later outlawed by Congress, Mr. Trump potentially escaped paying tens of millions of dollars in federal personal income taxes. It is impossible to know for sure because Mr. Trump has declined to release his tax returns, or even a summary of his returns, breaking a practice followed by every Republican and Democratic presidential candidate for more than four decades.
Tax experts who reviewed the newly obtained documents for The New York Times said Mr. Trump’s tax avoidance maneuver, conjured from ambiguous provisions of highly technical tax court rulings, clearly pushed the edge of the envelope of what tax laws permitted at the time. “Whatever loophole existed was not ‘exploited’ here, but stretched beyond any recognition,” said Steven M. Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center who helped draft tax legislation in the early 1990s.
Yet Good Morning America was the only broadcast morning show to cover this detailed reporting on the Republican presidential nominee possibly committing a crime, devoting two interview segments to the issue for a scant airtime of 1 minute and 47 seconds. The other two morning shows did not mention the Times report or Trump’s tax avoidance at all.
The networks’ Sunday shows have demonstrated a pattern of ignoring investigative reporting about Trump in favor of hyping any recent news about Clinton. Now the networks’ weekday morning shows seem to be following the same pattern.
Methodology: Media Matters searched SnapStream transcripts for ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, and CBS’ CBS This Morning, with the keywords “Clinton,” “FBI,” “email,” and “Comey” for any comments about the Clinton email story, and the keywords “tax” and “taxes” for any comments about the Trump tax story. Any comments on either subject were then measured for time. At least one discussion covered both topics simultaneously.
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Media outlets praised Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly after her contentious interview with former Speaker of the House and current Fox contributor Newt Gingrich over allegations of sexual assault against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, declaring her a “feminist icon” and “a consistent voice for women’s issues.” But Kelly has hardly been consistent on “women’s issues.” She has a history of promoting falsehoods about Planned Parenthood, denigrating efforts to expand reproductive rights, disregarding the gender pay gap, and criticizing efforts to combat sexual assault on college campuses.
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Their Own Data Shows Lethal Police Force Against Nonviolent Black Offenders Is More Than 3 Times Higher Than Whites
Bill O'Reilly invited the Manhattan Institute's Heather Mac Donald to argue that police use force against blacks at a greater rate than whites for violent felonies. Mac Donald and O’Reilly ignored that police use lethal force against blacks at a much higher rate for nonviolent arrests.
On the October 25 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, Bill O’Reilly hosted Mac Donald who claimed that “actually, if there's a bias in police shootings it works in favor of blacks. White felons are more likely to be shot by the police following the arrest for violent felony than blacks are,” citing data from the Center for Police Equity (CPE) showing that police used lethal force more against whites in violent felonies:
Mac Donald cherry-picked data from the CPE used in her Wall Street Journal column which actually found that lethal force was used more often on white individuals than black individuals only in the context of violent crime. But the study found that overall “the mean use of force rate for black citizens was higher than that for white citizens in all categories” and “When controlling for resident arrests for violent Part I offenses, racial disparities that disadvantaged blacks persisted in weapon use and the use of OC spray,” according to the July, 2016, report.
The report’s analysis revealed “a robust racial disparity benchmarked to population such that blacks receive a mean use of force score—a combination of counts and severity—that is roughly 3.8 times higher than whites:
Mac Donald has a history of citing biased data and making inflammatory remarks about black violence. Not only has she said that there is no evidence "that the overrepresentation of blacks in prison or arrest statistics is a result of criminal justice racism,” she also claimed that young black males have a "lack of self-discipline", which accounts for their higher school suspension rates.
O'Reilly gave Mac Donald an open platform to criticize Black Lives Matter protests against excessive use of force by police, while ignoring the very reason why the protests have erupted in the first place -- the killing of unarmed citizens at the hands of police for seemingly low level offenses.
Media figures took on Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s reference to immigrants as “bad hombres” who “we’re going to get … out” in the third presidential debate, explaining that the remarks are an offensive smear and stereotype of Latinos.
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Following several new reports of women alleging Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump had sexually harassed or sexually assaulted them, Trump campaign surrogates’ defenses took a bizarre turn. Here’s what Trump’s surrogates and media allies had to say during news appearances in the last day, which included dismissing the realities of sexual assault and attempting to pivot to old, debunked “scandals.”